Faith Academy coach Jack French rides off the field on his coaches’ shoulders after picking up his 300th career win in 2022 against Vigor. French, 70, announced his retirement Wednesday. (John O’Dell/Call News)
By ARTHUR L. MACK
Faith Academy’s Jack French, pointing to health issues, announced Wednesday he is retiring, ending a 40-year career as one of the most highly regarded coaches in Alabama.
“It was kind of a gradual thing,” said French, 70. “It’s kind of hard to pinpoint something like that. I’m not going to lie. I’m not as healthy as I was a few years ago. I guess it’s partly age. When I was 59, I was still running but I had to give that up along with some other things. I’m not ready to be an invalid but I have to be kind of careful.”
French, who was 314-140 in his career, developed a reputation as a program rebuilder with a knack for taking struggling teams and making them competitive. He came out of retirement to take the job at Faith after four years at Baker, where his teams went 27-15 with a pair of playoff appearances.
French coached the Rams for six seasons, finishing 55-20 and making the playoffs every season. Faith had never been to the AHSAA postseason before he took over.
French’s deepest playoff runs with the Rams came in the Class 5A semifinals, where they lost in overtime 21-20 to eventual state champion St. Paul’s in 2020 and fell to Charles Henderson 27-12 in 2022.
“We had some pretty good players and coaching staff,” he said. “Sometimes, we could put it together and I’m grateful to all of them for being patient with me and a lot of the faculty, staff and administrators have been mighty good to me.
“It’s been some fun times. There’ve been some problems to come along but I don’t know of any job where there are not going to be some problems. I had a lot of fun with the coaches and players. It’s been gratifying. It’s not just with the success on the football field but you see the guys grow up and see them become great fathers, great husbands and good in their businesses.”
French was 196-85 at seven Mississippi schools, including a 14-year career at Forrest High, where he won three state titles in 1992, 1993 and 1999.
Faith has not announced a formal plan to find a successor but French said he is confident the school will make the right choice.
“It was headed in the right direction when I got there and I hope it’s still headed in the right direction,” he said. “Our kids deserve the best program they can possibly have and I’m sure the powers that be are going to make sure that happens.”